Public consultation helps shape Wisbech transport schemes
Proposals for a new Wisbech access road have been amended following feedback from the public to ensure the scheme does not jeopardise prospects to re-open Wisbech Rail.
The Southern Access Road scheme, which would link New Bridge Lane and Boleness Road, is one of a number of transport improvement projects in the Wisbech Access Strategy, which was developed to address congestion and accident blackspots, while increasing road capacity and supporting much-needed housing and job growth.
A series of public consultation events last November showed support for the overall programme of schemes, but there was concern the Southern Access Road would negatively impact the railway project. Objectors and local representatives said the road would cut through the March to Wisbech railway line and prevent the re-opening of a railway station in Wisbech town centre.
Now Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and Wisbech Town Council are proposing a phased approach to the road, to take the railway line into account and ensure any decisions taken now will not prevent any future delivery of rail.
The phased approach involves designing a new roundabout on the A47 to provide access into south Wisbech so that if railway studies conclude that the preferred location for the station is north of New Bridge Lane there will still be access into the South Wisbech Development area. If the preferred station location is determined to be south of New Bridge Lane, New Bridge Lane could be reconnected.
The amended approach would allow the Wisbech Rail study to conclude the station location without any impact from the Wisbech Access Strategy, and enable the plan to proceed within government-specified funding timescales.
Fenland District Council along with the County Council and the former Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP), now The Business Board, successfully bid for funds from the Government’s Growth Fund to develop the transport schemes and £10.5 million to implement them – and the funding has to be spent implementing the first package of schemes by 2021.
The two councils are also proposing to amend the original short-term package of schemes, which, if approved by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, could secure an additional £10.5 million of funding from the Combined Authority.
A scheme to relocate the A47/Elm High Road roundabout further east has been brought forward from the medium-term package of schemes (being delivered by 2026) to the short-term package (to be delivered by 2021).
Although this part of the project will require more development and further public consultation with the affected communities of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, bringing it forward means the smaller improvement scheme at Elm High Road/A47 will no longer be required, resulting in money being saved. Completing the project sooner will also mean inflation savings and transport benefits will be felt more quickly.
The revised preferred package of short-term schemes now consists of (refer to attached map):
- New Bridge Lane/Cromwell Road signals
- Southern Access Road Phased Approach – development of new A47 roundabout
- Elm High Road/Weasenham Lane roundabout
- A47 / Broadend Road Roundabout
- Relocation of A47/Elm High Road roundabout, with further development and delivery towards the end of the short term package (subject to funding approval)
The phased Southern Access Road approach, and the new package of short-term schemes, will now be taken to the County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet and Wisbech Town Council later this month to seek approval to recommend these schemes to the CPCA and The Business Board.
These important transport enhancements are a partnership approach which has not only support from the Wisbech, Fenland and Cambridgeshire councils but also the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk along with Norfolk County Council due to the location of the town’s infrastructure and communities straddling the county border.
A Wisbech Access Strategy spokesperson said: “The local community feedback has helped shape the future of transport in Wisbech to ensure both road and rail proposals support each other and that the important government funding for the Wisbech Access Strategy is not jeopardised.
“These essential improvements to the infrastructure of Wisbech will enable the much needed housing and economic growth for this area of North Cambridgeshire. It also demonstrates the effective partnership approach across all tiers of Local Government and the important role the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have played with funding support.”
The spokesperson added: “The Wisbech Access Strategy has been tested to make sure it offers the best solution to address existing transport problems in and around the town of Wisbech. Local people were very clear about the need to protect the Wisbech Rail project, as a result the plans were amended after listening to the consultation responses. The improvement schemes will encourage growth and regeneration, improve accessibility, and help support the delivery of more than 3,500 new homes and 2,500 new jobs for the Capital of the Fens.”
The outline scheme design drawings along with detailed reports for each location, and the process followed can be found on Fenland District Council website at: http://fenland.gov.uk/wisbechaccess